DOVER, Del. (May 30, 2008) -- The Monster Mile has not been too kind to the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment team the past couple of years and this year’s AAA Insurance 200 would not be any different. Following two poor practice sessions the day before and qualifying back in the middle of the pack, Darnell and his NT+E team knew it would be an uphill battle from the start. Along with fighting a tight race truck the entire race, Darnell would also bring out a caution midway through race putting the No. 99 Ford F-150 several laps behind and finishing a disappointing 25th.
When the green flag dropped on a perfect evening for racing, Darnell and his No. 99 Ford F-150 rolled off the starting grid in the 18th position. Just two laps into the race Darnell quickly fell four spots and by lap 13 reported the truck being extremely tight with no front-end grip.
By lap 41 Darnell had inched his way back to the spot where he had begun the race, but was growing very impatient because the truck was not getting any better as the race went on. By now the Ford F-150 was beginning to get tight in the center of the track and in the throttle. The team though would catch a break just seven laps later when the yellow flag waved. Darnell followed the leaders to pit road for some major adjustments including fuel, four tires, an air pressure adjustment and track bar adjustment. Crew chief Matt Puccia also instructed the crew to take a rubber out of the left-rear spring. Puccia, along with Darnell, hoped this would solve their early race problems. But a number of laps later, Darnell radioed in reporting the truck was still having the same reoccurring issues.
Kyle Busch, who began the day on the second row, quickly took over the lead after only one lap and would stay there until lap 95 when a loose oil line ended his quest for an almost certain victory. This brought out the fourth caution of the evening and allowed Darnell to come to the pits for more adjustments. He reported to his crew chief the truck was still tight off the throttle and in the turns. The No. 99 Ford F-150 took fuel, four tires and made a full round track bar adjustment. Darnell would come away in the pits in the 14th position.
On lap 114 Darnell was holding down the 13th spot when he was bumped from the inside by the No.30 driven by Todd Bodine going into turn two sending Darnell up the race track. Darnell did an incredible job of saving the truck, but quickly came across the radio telling Puccia something wasn’t right with his Ford F-150. The call was made to take it to the garage for further inspection. Darnell was quickly notified by his crew chief the truck suffered only four flat tires. The pit crew did an outstanding job of getting Darnell back on the track, but it was unfortunately too late to make any kind of a late run into the top 10.
When the race restarted on lap 121 the No. 99 NT+E Ford F-150 was now five laps down and in 28th. The final 80 laps saw Darnell put up lap times as fast as the leaders, but all that could be salvaged at the end was a disheartening 25th-place finish. Scott Speed ended up crossing the finish line as the winner of the AAA Insurance 200, picking up his first career Craftsman Truck Series win.
“We were tight the whole race. Our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 wasn’t very good. The 30 truck [Bodine] just got into the corner a little too hard and ran into us, spun us out and backed us into the wall a little bit. I thought we had a broken track bar; it looked like it, it felt like it, it looked like it from up top. We brought it into the garage and it wasn’t broken. We lost a couple of laps. It’s just unfortunate,” said Darnell.
Following today’s disappointing finish, the NT+E team dropped three spots in the overall Craftsman Truck Series standings and now sits 12th after eight races. The No. 99 team will travel to Texas next week for the Sam’s Town 400 on Friday, June 6, 2008.
About Northern Tool + Equipment
Northern Tool + Equipment has been a supplier of high-quality tools and equipment for more than 27 years, selling products through direct mail, the Internet and at nearly 65 retail locations in 11 states. Along with a deep selection of hand, power and air tools, Northern Tool + Equipment carries a wide variety of products, including generators, pressure washers, air compressors, hydraulics, small engines, trailers, water pumps, tractors, welding equipment and much more. Northern Tool + Equipment also serves as the exclusive distributor of NorthStarTM brand equipment, which is fabricated and assembled at the company’s 250,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility. For more information, visit www.northerntool.com.
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Travis Kvapil and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.